5 Most Controversial Digital Marketing Tactics

Posted by Varun Sharma on August 26, 2020

There may be a name in notoriety too. Still, today more and more consumers are making brands and companies accountable for their marketing tactics and policies, especially in the digital marketing world. The exposure of the marketing choice on digital media is many folds more than in offline marketing. This makes controversial tactics exposed and means that sooner rather than later, they will be called out for it.

Let us look at five of the most prominent recent examples of controversial marketing tactics in the digital marketing world.

BIC pens Digital Marketing Controversy

One of the biggest names when it comes to pens and stationery products that are reliable and sturdy. This has been true for decades. With everyone moving to digital marketing, Bic has been behind in this in any aspect. Their brand name has only benefited from these for sure, like most brands worldwide across industries.

However, a recent campaign, which was likely made with great intention, backfired royally. The digital marketing campaign led to a lot of controversies as soon as it hit the social media channels.

BIC Digital Marketing Controversy

The campaign read:

“Look like a girl

Act like a lady

Think like a man

Work like a boss.”

This was launched on Women’s Day to honor working women. The internet was full of memes and commentaries on this. This led to the company withdrawing the campaign hours into releasing it.

McDonald’s Digital Marketing Controversy

mcdonalds szechuan sauce controversy
Credit: Cnet.con

The controversy isn’t always caused in a negative sense as hard as it may be to be believed. If precedence is to be seen through, a controversy even if it begins well for the company doesn’t necessarily end well. Positive publicity can lead to disappointment and broken promises for the company later.

A recent example of this is McDonald’s when they wanted to publicize their one day return of their 1990s fame Szechuan Sauce in limited outlets. To publicize this, they worked with the peak popular Rick and Morty show to advertise this online.

It became clear soon that the company underestimated the response they would get to this ad and the sauce return. It isn’t that their ad was not clear enough on the details of the return of the sauce or its availability. What just happened is that they did not see the return being this successful.

What followed the ad was unending lines on all McDonald outlets for the sauce. This threw the outlets that did not have it completely off. Even the ones where it did make a return ran out of it within the first hour or so of the day opening. This meant that almost all customers who visited the outlet left disappointed.

This backfired as many were very upset with the company for such a short return or limited outlet return compared to the scale and popularity of the ad partners.

Star Sports Digital Marketing Controversy

Controversy, at times, strikes even when you may not be at fault. An ad for the Cricket World Cup 2019 by ICC stirred up a lot of controversy in the Indian subcontinent for Star Sports.

This controversy is a reminder to brands that not all trending topics are up for grabs when it comes to the sentiments of people.

To be fair, the company did not directly cause the controversy, but seeing the timing and what had recently happened, this could have been avoided.

They came out with an ad for CWC2019, including Father’s Day, in the narrative for a jibe at the neighboring country for India with respect to cricket. A company there hit back with an ad on the issue with an ad-based around Wing Commander Abhinandan. This was not well, obviously. While most of the hate targeted the Pakistani channel, Star Sports was also dragged into the same due to their connection.

Bud light Digital Marketing Controversy

Bud light digital marketing controversy

Often controversy is not what a company or brand sets out for, but their obvious oversight on one aspect or another leads to disastrous results.

The beer in question recently came out with a series of ads in the digital and traditional marketing formats that completely missed the point and were swamped with negative responses.

The ad portrayed the idea of “up for whatever” in terms of willingness and spirit by ads showcasing a man taking on daring tasks. Their tagline of “the perfect beer for removing no from your vocabulary for the night,” however, sent the worst possible message across.

People saw this as a link to how often alcohol is used or abused for rape, and the campaign faced the social media heat at a peak. The company apologized and pulled their campaign based on the reaction.

Dove Digital Marketing Controversy

Dove Digital Marketing Controversy

Many a time the controversy of an ad isn’t misperception or a second meaning seem into the ad. While there is no denying that such things should be overlooked or avoided by the brands, there is a much bigger category they need to care for.

The last example, for now, is one where the brand marketing team put across a blatantly disturbing thought process, and this was approved or overlooked by the giant that is the company until it blew up.

The case in point being discussed is a digital platform released ad by Dove (a brand by Unilever) in which the advertisement shows a black woman remove her dark top and turn into a white woman by using Dove. This was a clearly racist ad but was somehow approved and launched.

The backlash was immediate and unrelenting until the company apologized and pulled the campaign, but not before they had received a lot of hate over this.

Bottom Line:

From the above examples, you can see that in these times of the great digital footprint everything leaves and where it is impossible in one way to take away once something is put out there, while also being unable to know the extent to which it would become viral; it is crucial for brands to be more than careful of their campaigns. What a brand puts out there on the digital forums goes beyond geographical boundaries and can have a previously unseen level of response to it.

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